C-TRU major research projects

On this page you can explore both our ongoing and completed projects:

Ongoing projects

  1. IPPACT project – predicting severe mental health difficulties in people showing early signs of psychosis
  2. RESTART project – trauma-focused therapies for people at risk of developing psychosis
  3. i-Minds – digital interventions for survivors of online childhood sexual abuse
  4. The STAR trial – trauma-focused therapies for people who experience psychosis
  5. TULIPS project – psychological therapy on mental health inpatient wards

Completed projects

  1. COVID-19 Resilience (Co-Re) project – psychological impact of COVID-19 on NHS clinical staff
  2. Resilience Hubs Evaluation project – new NHS mental health services to support COVID-19 key workers
  3. The Sexual Violence Priority Setting Partnership – research priorities of sexual violence and abuse survivors
  4. The EASE trial – exploring trauma-focused therapies for psychosis

Project-specific staff

Isobel Johnson (Senior Research Assistant)

I am a senior research assistant currently working on the TULIPS (Talk Understand and Listen in inpatient Services) randomised controlled trial. In my role I am responsible for the collection and analysis of Qualitative data (Interviews and Observations) as a part of the process evaluation. I am keen to give voices to stakeholders through Qualitative research and by promoting patient and public involvement in the research I am involved in.  

 Previously I have worked on studies evaluating complex interventions aiming to improve inpatient services. I have also worked as a support worker in forensic mental health services, a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit and drug and alcohol services.  

 I have a master’s degree in forensic psychology and mental health from the University of Manchester and am primarily interested in research aiming to improve services and stake holder outcomes. 

Marina Sandys (Research Assistant)

I am currently working within C-TRU on the i-Minds project at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. My role involves facilitating recruitment, conducting research assessments and qualitative interviews, and assisting with the day-to-day running of the project.  

I have recently completed an MSc in Psychological Research Methods and I am passionate about research which aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of individuals. Previously, I have volunteered for a mental health crisis service, and assisted with several research projects at university throughout both of my degrees.   

Cindy Chan (Research Assistant)

I joined the i-Minds project at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) as a Research Assistant in May 2021. 

I have worked for more than 10 years in mental health across forensic, inpatient, community and rehabilitation services in both clinical and research capacities. I’m currently self-funding a PhD in online sexual exploitation, which examines its long-term outcomes on adult mental health. 

I am an advocate for diversity and inclusion and a member of GMMH’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethic (BAME) network. I aim to put the welfare of people with lived experience at the forefront of my work and champion their rights. 

I am a firm believer in education and that challenging stigma and stereotypes are crucial in achieving equality. In my free time, I enjoy the electronic music scene and fitness training. 

Jasmine Lamonby (Research Assistant)

I am a Research Assistant with C-TRU. Currently working on the NIHR funded RESTART project alongside Dr Filippo Varese, which looks at the feasibility and efficacy of trauma-focused therapies for people who are at ultra-high risk for psychosis.  

 For the RESTART project, I have the privilege to talk to people about the emotional and psychological consequences of trauma. I conduct trauma assessments, qualitative and quantitative data collection, and analysis.  

 Prior to joining C-TRU, I have worked on a clinical trial with a focus on improving access to CAMHS for children and young people, and I have also worked for Childline.  

 I am passionate about working collaboratively with people to help break down barriers to mental health services. It is important to me that marginalised people are given a safe and empowering platform to speak to their experiences. 


Asqa Choudary (Research Assistant/PhD student)

I am an Assistant Psychologist/Research Assistant working on the STAR (Study of Trauma and Recovery) trial.

My research interests include topics around discrimination, trauma and psychosis. I feel fortunate to be able to provide people with a safe, open and empathic place to share their experiences of trauma.

Prior to this, I have taken on various volunteer roles including working at a special needs school, as a community engagement worker, alongside human rights solicitors and assisting with grant applications and study assessments at the Psychosis Research Unit.

Ongoing projects

IPPACT project

Improving the prediction of severe mental health difficulties in people who are showing early signs of psychosis

Many people who have experienced trauma and distressing life experiences are more likely to develop a range of mental health difficulties, including psychosis. 

Psychosis is a mental health problem that causes people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. This can involve distressing experiences, such as hearing voices or having unusual beliefs. In the UK, almost half a million people experience psychosis. 

Doctors and nurses in the NHS already use special interviews that can identify people who are vulnerable to psychosis. However, the NHS needs better systems to identify people that are at the highest risk of developing severe and distressing psychotic symptoms, and who might benefit from early support before their difficulties worsen and become long-lasting. 

The IPPACT project is funded by the NIHR and led by  Dr Filippo Varese, Professor Alison Yung and Professor Sophie Parker (Director of the GMMH Youth Mental Health Research Unit). Started in 2018, this project aims to evaluate the use of a tool that could help NHS clinicians to better identify people who are at the highest risk of developing psychosis 

The project involves collaborations with clinical teams based in the North West, North East and the Midlands, and researchers at the GMMH Youth Mental Health Research Unit, Manchester Metropolitan University, The University of Birmingham, The University of Liverpool and The University of Melbourne. 

IPPACT will evaluate if it is possible to use this tool in routine NHS settings and whether it could lead to more efficient use of NHS resources to support individuals at high risk of developing psychosis. 

For more information:

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RESTART project

Understanding the impact of trauma and the benefits of trauma therapy in people at high risk of developing psychosis

Started in 2021, the RESTART project involves work with people vulnerable to psychosis, NHS professionals and international experts to find out whether psychological therapies that specifically target the emotional and psychological consequences of trauma could be useful for improving the mental health of people who are at high risk of developing psychosis. 

The first phase of RESTART has involved work in partnership with NHS Trusts in the North West, North East and the Midlands to better understand the impacts of trauma in people at ultra-high risk for psychosis. Building on this work, in 2023 the RESTART team will start the first randomised controlled trial of trauma therapy in people who are at high risk of developing psychosis.  

The project will explore if these therapies could be used widely in the NHS, as part of larger-scale research to determine if they could be offered across the UK in the future. 

For more information:

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Developing and testing a new digital resource for young people who have experienced online sexual abuse

Online sexual abuse has increased in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is little tried and tested support for young people who have experienced online sexual abuse. The NHS urgently needs an accessible intervention to improve the wellbeing of young people who have experienced online sexual abuse and that could protect them from future harm.

Starting in 2021, the i-Minds project will work with young people who have experienced online sexual abuse, parents and caregivers and relevant services in Manchester and Edinburgh to develop and test a digital intervention to improve the wellbeing of young people who have experienced online sexual abuse.

We will adapt a face-to-face therapy called mentalisation based therapy, that previous research has shown can be useful for young people, into a digital intervention. We want to create an intervention that is safe and easy to use, improves mental health, helps young people to stay safe on the internet, and can be used in NHS and online services that support young people.

For more information:

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STAR trial

Evaluating whether trauma-focused therapies are helpful for people who experience psychosis 

The STAR trial is a large clinical trial led by King’s College London and hosted locally by researchers at C-TRU and the GMMH Psychosis Research Unit. 

The trial is taking place in five different UK sites, including Greater Manchester, and brings together the clinical and research expertise of the most prominent groups that have conducted trauma therapy research in people with psychosis in the UK. 

STAR is evaluating whether a talking therapy called trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy for psychosis (TF-CBTp) could help people with psychosis who also experience distressing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (e.g. flashbacks, distressing and vivid memories of traumatic life events, feeling numb and ‘unreal’). 

These post-traumatic symptoms are common in people with psychosis, but unfortunately they are often neglected by services. If eligible for the trial, participants will have a 50% chance of receiving nine months of therapy, as well as the opportunity to take part in additional paid studies exploring the impact of this intervention in more detail (for example using neuroimaging methods). 

For more information:

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Talk, understand, listen for inpatient settings (TULIPS) project

Increasing access to psychological therapy on mental health inpatient wards

TULIPS is a five-year research project which started in 2018 and aims to work alongside people who access inpatient mental health services and key people, such as staff who work on wards to design a therapeutic model that will improve access to therapy, management of individual mental health conditions and help inform a personalised recovery on mental health inpatient wards.

This model of therapy will then be tested in up to 34 mental health inpatient wards across England.

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Completed projects

COVID-19 Resilience (Co-Re) project

Understanding the psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the NHS clinical workforce

The COVID-19 Resilience project is a study to follow-up a large group of NHS staff to find out how their mental health has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Run in collaboration with researchers and clinicians from various health services and Universities in the North West (e.g. the Greater Manchester Resilience Hub; the Lancashire Traumatic Stress Service; Manchester Metropolitan University), the findings of this project will be used to inform the best ways to support staff wellbeing and mental health and improve their resilience, now and in the future.

For more information:

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Resilience Hubs Evaluation project

Evaluating new NHS services to support key workers whose mental health and wellbeing has suffered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic

The Resilience Hubs Evaluation was a study funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The study ran from October 2020 to May 2021, and its aim was to evaluate four Resilience Hubs in the North of England, services funded by NHS England that were based on a service model originally developed to support those affected by the Manchester Arena Bombing. The model has now been adapted to support the mental health needs of health, social care and other key workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The main objectives of the study were: 

  1. To explore keyworker characteristics associated with mental health presentations requiring further support, and explore characteristics associated with lower levels of support access and uptake 
  2. To explore what resources were needed to run the Hubs, to understand their ‘value for money’ 
  3. To gather a variety of stakeholders’ perspectives on the Hubs, and explore the barriers and enablers to setting up and running the Hubs, and to accessing Hub support. 

In addition to addressing these objectives, we produced a list of recommendations for the Hubs themselves and for the wider health and care system. These are intended to help improve the Hubs’ data collection and communication, improve support access for underrepresented groups, and create psychologically safer environments within this system.

Our research supports the Resilience Hub model and demonstrates a need for ongoing mental health and wellbeing support for health and care staff beyond the pandemic. The findings suggest that the Resilience Hubs should continue to provide this valued support, and that this model can be effectively adapted to different contexts, and as a potential system to be repurposed for future responses to other large-scale crises. We are currently working to write up our findings and share these with other staff wellbeing hubs and health and social care organisations across England more broadly. 

 For more information:

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Sexual Violence Priority Setting Partnership

Identifying the research priorities of survivors of sexual violence/abuse and the professionals who support them 

Approximately 1 in 10 people in the UK have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16, for example rape, sexual assault or unwanted sexual contact. Furthermore, 1 in 20 children in the UK have suffered from some form of childhood sexual abuse. 

Living with the consequences of sexual violence can have a significant physical and emotional impacts on survivors, but there are several important unknowns around the best way of supporting people who have experienced various forms of sexual violence or abuse. 

The Sexual Violence Priority Setting Partnership was an initiative led by C-TRU and the St Mary’s Hospital Sexual Assault Referral Centre (the oldest and largest service of its kind in the country), and part of the NIHR James Lind Alliance, a non-profit making initiative that brings together people with lived experienced and the professionals who support them in Priority Setting Partnerships. 

Established in 2020, the Sexual Violence Priority Setting Partnership conducted national surveys to scope the most important unanswered questions in the area of sexual violence and abuse. These  were further prioritised by  survivors and professionals in a follow-up survey and final collaborative workshops. The main themes for these priorities are as follow: 

  1. Support and outcomes which are valued by survivors themselves 
  2. The needs of specific survivor groups 
  3. The needs of survivors at a broader organisational, and social level 
  4. Impacts of involvement in criminal justice proceedings 

Our work suggests that much more research is needed to address the needs of survivors and professionals in this area. Although the Top 10 questions reflect areas that are in most need of research, only 5% of the  questions proposed in the first survey were found to be answered by past research. 

The Top 10 can be used as a springboard for improving services offered to survivors of sexual violence, and we encourage survivor representatives to share these priorities and encourage the development of future work. 

 For more information:

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EASE trial

Evaluating whether trauma-focused therapies are helpful for people who experience psychosis 

Many people who experience psychosis have experienced distressing life events both in childhood and adulthood. 

Clinicians have been reluctant to offer psychological therapies that target the emotional and psychological consequences of these potentially traumatic experiences. However, recent research has shown that trauma-focused therapies can be safe and helpful for this group. 

We are currently conducting two research projects aimed at evaluating whether these therapies can fill a major gap in the treatment for people with psychosis. 

The EASE trial started at the beginning of 2019. Hosted by Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust and funded by the NIHR, EASE was a three-year project testing whether it is possible to conduct a future large clinical trial of eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy with people with psychosis who are supported by early intervention services in the UK. 

The study involves collaborations with researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Lancaster, and EMDR experts based at the Lancashire Traumatic Stress Service.

The project was successfully completed in May 2022, with promising findings suggesting that EMDR should be investigated further in larger scale trials with clients with early psychosis. The project findings are currently being published in academic journals.  

For more information:

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